So I think I’ve figured out how to kick jet-lag’s as*…
You just don’t stop. Ever. Keep going even if you feel like you’re part of the zombie apocalypse. And that’s not too hard to do when you have a city like Florence to explore. Especially for the first time.
Ryan’s been to Firenze a few times but last year was my first experience and I remember the overwhelming awe that kicks you in the stomach as you round the corner and run into the Duomo. I think we stood there for a few minutes jaws dropped like cartoon character. I’m not kidding.
And I was utterly captivated by the beauty of the Piazza della Signoria. All those glorious marble statues standing silently amongst those seeking shade and solace. And for centuries! If I weren’t running away from jet-lag I could’ve sat there for hours, just gazing up at those masterpieces.
So it was such a delight to meander through the cavernous Basilica di Santa Croce, stand on the Ponte Vecchio, marvel at the view from the Piazza St. Michelangelo with Mike and Carolyn (my mother and father-in-law) and see these Florentine gems (along with the Duomo & Piazza della Signoria) through their eyes. All in two days! Goodbye Jet-Lag!!!
Ryan’s best friend Brad and his wife Silvia live in the heart of Florence with their three cats, Micho, Tazza & Willie (because he has one eye… Goonies anyone?). And we were blessed to stay with them and have a real florentine experience.
Brad and I share an affinity for eateries with both good food and creatively crafted ambiance. On our first trip I was pleasantly surprised to find that Florence is full of lots of cute little vintage/bohemian spots with culinary chops to boot. And on this trip he showed us a few more.
We celebrated with plastic cups full of bubbly beer or procesco in this brand new alley-bar. I have no idea what it’s called because there was only one wooden sign on the street that said something like “bar this way…”
We took a right and there was a little shack handing out beverages and cheese & meat plates, surrounded by ivy-clad walls and picnic tables & benches. It was like a secret (beer) garden. Definitely a locals hangout.
After drinks and some meandering we made it to Konnubio, a very elegant ristaurante that serves Italian and Mediterranean food with a modern slant. Definitely on the high end of the price scale, it was worth every penny as we were not only celebrating the commencement of our trip, but Mike and Carolyn’s 38th wedding anniversary.
The next day we awoke to coffee & croissants before heading out to pick up our rental car for the day. Brad wanted to take us out into the Tuscan country. Unfortunately Silvia was unable to join us as she had to travel back to the States for a work conference.
I’ll admit that squeezing 5 of us into a car for a two-hour drive after having just sat on plane and train for about 14 hours the day(s) before was not the greatest idea for my hips. In fact they hated me for it. But my eyes… My eyes were in heaven!
The Tuscan towns we explored were Montalcino and Montepulciano. We hiked their steep cobblestone streets, ate their tantalizing tomatoes, pasta & pecorino and drank their renowned wine. We even stopped at a winery to sample (and inevitably purchase) some local Chiantis. You would too at like 6 euros a bottle!
But mostly we marveled at the incredible beauty that surrounded us. Our fingers clicked away hoping to capture some of it. And yet some views are only meant to live in your heart, not on a hard drive.
The next day Brad took us to another sweet spot: Le Vespe Cafe. The only place in Florence were you can get a legit American breakfast. You know this because it’s full of American college kids looking for something to soothe their hangover from the previous night’s debauchery.
Thankfully we arrived early (and by “early” I mean 11am) and beat the rush. And the look on my father-in-law’s face when they brought him a plate full of eggs, bacon & pancakes was priceless. Now this was breakfast! He even got a decent cup of strong drip coffee.
We worked off our brunch bellies by walking. Lots of walking. And after we sent Brad off to meet his wife in NYC, we all took a nice siesta with the kitties at his apartment. Sometimes it’s good to just chill. But before saying “arrivederci” Brad left us with one last gem – potentially our best dinner in Florence: Fuoco Mato. The best pizza I’ve ever eaten.
Our minds were blown with the sweetness of the tomatoes, the creaminess of the mozzarella and a crust that bordered on perfection. The service was impeccable (not as common as you’d hope for in a major international city) and it was a great finale to the first part of our trip.
Thanks Florence (and Brad & Silvia!!!) for a lovely Italian introduction.
Best photo op
Piazza St. Michelangelo is a bit of a hike but will give you that postcard pic.
While we didn’t make it this trip the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella (right next to the train station) is by far my favorite. While the Duomo is certainly the most impressive church I’ve ever seen from the outside, and Santa Croce has more famous dead people buried there, I enjoyed the art and scale of Santa Maria Novella better. Just take my word for it and check it out.
Best people watching
Piazza della Signioria. Escape the rays and find a seat amongst these marble beauties. Stare at these stunning statues or find your focal point in the people around you. There are plenty of them that’s for sure – even at night!
Le Vespe Cafe. Like I said, this place is legit. My mother and father-in-law went back a second time! But if you’re salivating for an Eggs Benedict be sure to go on the weekends… It’s only available then.
Local lunch spot
Amble is this tiny little spot inside a kind of hidden courtyard. There are all these great vintage tables & chairs set up and they if you go inside its like the best vintage/antique shop decided to start selling sandwiches, salads & Spritzs. The best part? That’s kind of exactly what it is, just in reverse! Everything’s for sale! You can eat & home decorate too. Talk about multi-tasking. The only problem is figuring out how to get it all home…
Fuoco Mato. So worth it!
A great fine dining experience
Konnubio. Elegant, refined, delicious.
Vivoli Gelateria. Near Santa Croce it’s seriously the best. Don’t settle for less.